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Switzerland For the First Time

Switzerland For the First Time

Welcome to SwitzerlandOur big adventure for 2007 was our trip to Switzerland.  We spent months planning our trip using a combination of Rick Steve’s Switzerland 2007 guide book, Google Earth, and websites.  Finally in June of 2007, we boarded our plane at Seatac and started our journey.  Little did we know that our connecting flight out of Philadelphia to Germany would be cancelled due to a thunderstorm over the airport there.  So after spending one day and one night there, we finally got another flight to Germany.  Then it was on to Zurich.

Join us to recall our journey through Switzerland in pictures that I took during our travels.  Each tab is in the order that we visited that place in Switzerland, left to right.  Because there were so many places we visited, I had to break it up into two tabbed sections.  The top section represents the first half of our journey, and the bottom section of tabs represents the last half.


We arrive in Switzerland at the Zurich airport on a warm summer day in June, exchange our US dollars at a bank inside the airport, admire the interesting animated lights and advertisements in the airport, pickup and inspect our VW Toureg rental SUV, pile in and drive (for the first time in a foreign country for me – so scared!) for hours to Appenzell.  Along the way, little did I know that our GPS would experience confusion at the fact that there are multiple addresses in Appenzell that are the same.  So we get lost and accidentally take a logging road up in the mountains.  After encountering a local travelling on the same one lane dirt road (face to face!), we turn around (tricky!) and then finally find our hotel and start enjoying all the activities that Appenzell has to offer, like the Kronberg luge and the cablecar to the top of the Ebenalp mountain where paragliders abound.  We also visited the Cheese factory and museum close by.


After spending the morning at Kronberg, we take the train to St. Gallen to have lunch at and walk through this historic city.  Along the way we accidentally get off at a station just a few miles out of town in a quiet little town called Bruggen.  So we wait for the next express train, but while we are there, we admire the charm of this old little town.


We have to leave the beautiful Appenzell behind and drive to Davos where our next hotel awaits.  It’s not the best of them (not nearly as nice as the beautiful Frohe Aussicht in Schwende), but it gets us to closer to the Glacier Express.  One morning we get up really early and drive over the alp pass roads to get to St. Moritz to catch the Glacier Express train to the picturesque town of Zermatt.  We had managed to get first class seats at the last minute before we left for Switzerland and we were excited to be part of the journey.  Along the way we see a lot of Switzerland.


After our Glacier Express ride across the middle of Switzerland, we arrive in Zermatt and explore this charming alpine town surrounded by beautiful mountains.  In Zermatt, we stay at a hotel that literally is so tiny we can’t all squeeze into the elevator – the La Petite hotel.  It’s name says it all.  Despite being tiny, the ambiance was wonderful and we really enjoyed our stay in Zermatt.  We even ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the heart of the downtown!

Bernina Express

Back to our hotel in Davos to catch the Bernina Express train in the big town of Chur.  We drive once again through the mountain pass from Davos to get to Chur.  This time, however, we ran into trouble along the way.  A farm truck had broken down and it’s blocking the road (all lanes) several miles from the end of the pass road.  I remember the huge backup of cars there waiting for the truck to clear the road.  I got out of my car to see what was happening.  One German in a car I passed asked me what was wrong (in German!).  My response was some of the only German I could remember at the time: “Das is kaput!”.  He nodded and said “Ya ya”.  Whew! 

Our second class seat journey on the Bernina Express was more enjoyable than the first class seats we had on the Glacier Express.  For one thing, the train windows were much bigger, and the seats much more comfortable.  Just shows you that you don’t have to have first class to have a great journey.  The journey from Chur into Tirano Italy revealed some the most beautiful scenery we had seen.


We left our hotel in Davos and drove the highways once again.  This time in search of our new hotel in Alpnachstad, a small town on the rail line and boat line, at the base of the beautiful Pilatus mountain.  The hotel in Alpnachstad was convenient to the train and to the boat, but it was noisy with lots of skiers making lots of noise into the early morning.  I remember I got so frustrated with the noise late one night that I stuck my head out of the door to my room and yelled “Shut Up!”.  I heard a little German flying around, then silence for the rest of the night.  Ahhh.

We journeyed up the mountain in a cog railcar to see the spectacular views from the top.  While we were there, we took our picture with the Alphorn players.  They were playing some tradition Alphorn songs.  The weather at the top was very windy and foggy.  Later we took the cable car down the mountain to the bus which would take us into the town of Luzern.


After getting off the bus in downtown Luzern.  We walked through the historic town.  We started down the main street close to the famous covered bridges.  We walked along the seawall and my wife got friendly with some local swans that were waiting for a hand-out.  Then we walked through one of the beautiful wooden covered bridges.  We admired the wonderful ancient murals that decorate the top inside of the bridge.  Each mural was handpainted on wood to depict a scene from Luzern in the old days.  We ate lunch in the covered bridge.  Later we walked into the busy part of the town and had coffee at the local Starbucks overlooking the water.

Luzern Transport Museum

The next day we took the steamboat from Alpnachstad back into Luzern for another fun filled day.  This time we went to the remarkable Transport Museum which showcases trains and planes from Switzerland’s past.


It was that time again.  To drive to our next hotel and next destination.  This time we decided to plant ourselves in Interlaken, centrally located in Switzerland.  Shortly after arrival,  we drove to canton Fribourg in the southwest of Switzerland to visit the legendary Cailler chocolate factory (now a part of Nestle) for a tour and to tank up on sweets.


While we were in Interlaken, we visited the open air historical museum of Ballenberg. In Ballenberg we saw Switzerland how it was perhaps 100 years ago.  It was a short drive along the coast of the the beautiful lakes to get there.  We got lost at first, but one of the friendly locals helped us find our way.  We saw lots of old houses and shops.  My wife tried carving a wooden bucket.  Our tiny travel companion Emily got up close and personal with some resident bunnies and geese.  Even some loud fighter jets flew overhead to greet us there.  What an enjoyable day!  We had to hurry back before a big rain storm set in, though.


Our favorite city in Switzerland was Interlaken. We enjoyed hearing the beautiful sound of alphorns in the country where our hotel was, and we enjoyed the convenience of shopping in the downtown area.  One of our favorite places to shop, eat lunch, and meet locals, was the big Coop store in the heart of the downtown area.  While we were there, we all bought the renowned Swiss Automatic watches at the local watch shop.  Buying a Swiss watch in Switzerland is a requirement of any self-respecting tourist to the country.  As a token of their appreciation, we also got lots of collector spoons along with the watches.


The home of Sherlock Holmes is Meiringen, a small town near Interlaken.  We journey there to ride the rail car up the mountain to see the famous Reichenbach falls.  This is the scene of the final story in the famous series by Sir Conan Doyle where Holmes is pushed off the ridge of the mountain into the dangerous falls by the evil Professor Moriarty.  The whole town is decorated to look like it belongs in one of the Sherlock Holmes tales.  There is a museum where you can see a full size replica of the living room of 221 B Baker street in London, where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson resided.

Piz Gloria

We journey into Wengen, Murren, and finally up to the top of the Schilthorn on cable car to have lunch in the famous Piz Gloria rotating restaurant which was the site of the James Bond 007 movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.


After Interlaken, we drive to our final destination – where we started, Zurich.  We stayed at a modern self-service hotel in an out-of-town industrial area of Zurich.  The hotel was unique in that it had it’s own kitchen!  My wife and her sister cooked many meals during our stay there.  Toward the end of our stay in Zurich, we decided to visit the Einstein Museum in Bern so we took the train from Zurich to Bern and spent the day there.  In addition, while we were in Zurich, we visited a beautiful Chinese garden donated and constructed by the Chinese there.

Images from Zurich:

Images from Bern:

About Chris Disdero

Occupation: Software Engineer; Favorite Languages: C++ C# Objective-C; Favorite Challenge: Connecting complex programs together so that elements of one UI interoperate within the other UI; Passions: Learning new things. Photography. Electronic Music. Astronomy. Model Railroad Miniatures, Designing web sites; Favorite Getaway: San Juan Island; Personal Motto: “No matter where you go, there you are.” View all posts by Chris Disdero

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